This Thursday at 9pm EST in Las Vegas, Nevada at the Pearl in the Palms Casino and Resort, the WEC holds another spectacular event, WEC 52: Faber Vs. Mizugaki. With a star-studded card featuring “Money” Chad Mendes (8-0) vs. “Showtime” Javier Vazquez (15-4) as well as what likely will be dubbed Fight of the Night, “The California Kid” Urijah Faber (23-4) vs. Takeya Mizugaki (12-4-2), the night promises to be one to remember. In what is perhaps one of the most highly anticipated matches of the evening showcases the fabled Joseph Benavidez (9-2) pitted against Wagnney Fabiano (14-2). With the imminent WEC/UFC merger fast approaching, both bantamweights undoubtedly will be looking to deliver the performance of a lifetime as growing audiences look on.
At First Glance: It will be interesting to see how Benavidez performs in this fight since he is stepping in for Brian Bowles (8-1) on short notice after Bowles injured his foot. Benavidez is a tough competitor though and after droping his last fight to the WEC Bantamweight Champion Dominic Cruz (15-1), a win over Fabiano could be just what he needs to get back into top contender position and earn another shot at the title. With a savvy submission expert like Wagnney Fabiano standing in his way, that much needed win won’t come easily. Fabiano himself is looking to extend a two-fight win streak and make a bid for the bantamweight belt following the WEC/UFC merger at the beginning of next year.
In Depth: The tale of the tape reveals the contrasting styles of the two men: Benavidez has an extensive kickboxing and wrestling background, and Fabiano is a third-degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Despite the difference in their backgrounds, Benavidez and Fabiano share a common factor in that each has earned over half of their wins via submission, respectively. Both fighters also possess substantial striking proficiencies. Benavidez solidified two of his nine total wins via TKO, and Fabiano has completely knocked out his opposition on two separate occasions. In addition, the Brazilian is well known for connecting with some grievous leg kicks and shots to the body of his adversary. Fabiano and Benavidez are coming into this fight hungry for a win that can propel them to the top of the bantamweight division at a pivotal point in MMA history – the WEC/UFC merger. The demands of necessity outshines the drive of desire, and the must-win attitude of the fighters could make all the differences in a bout this evenly matched. One thing that is certain is that someone will be seeing stars after this fight, and the crowd will love every step of the way.
The Wild Card: This pair of bantamweights clearly is comfortable battling in stand-up or on the ground. Fifteen minutes of either would not be surprising. The meeting of Benavidez and Fabiano will look more like a chess match than a brawl should it hit the canvas. Both men are comfortable on the ground, and often utilize slick submissions to manipulate the limbs of their opponents and ultimately force the tap. Whoever slaps on the first Triangle or Armbar will more than likley be the one with his arm raised at the end of the fight. But with both fighters having almost equally proficient submission defense, it’s probably going to take a while until observers see a full-blown, “locked-in” submission from either fighter.
The Verdict: There are an abundance of variables with this match-up, which makes it a difficult one to call. However, Benavidez is convinced that he has seen all of Fabiano’s cards, and that the black belt will attempt to smother him for 15 minutes, after which he eeks out a decision victory. But Benavidez has other plans. Regarding his upcoming fight, he told MMA Weekly, ““I love the match-up. My three most impressive fights have been against black belts in Jiu-Jitsu…I eat black belts for breakfast.” Benavidez will reign victorious because where Fabiano needs a win, Benavidez can’t afford a loss. It is with that drive and willpower that he will beat the Brazilian out of Fabiano and embark on the journey back to title contention. Benavidez via TKO, Round 3.